A GRIP ON SPORTS
I knew it was coming so I stayed up late to watch it. It is so much fun to watch a college basketball fan base treat a mid-January game as if it is the national title championship. But, in a way, to them it is. Read on.
• When the final buzzer sounded on Portland's 82-73 win over visiting Gonzaga last night, the ESPNU cameras kept rolling. After all, they had to document the Portland students rushing the court. On and on they came, until at least half the floor was covered in a celebration. There were smiles, there was jumping, there was a party. The Pilots had done something no other University of Portland team had done in more than a decade. Heck in this century. They had defeated the hated Gonzaga Bulldogs at home. (As an aside, the cameras happened to catch something I really love about college athletics. In the midst of the scrum on the floor, one of the Portland players shared his happiness with a guy from the stands. The player had high-fived his teammates, sure, but his conversation with a student at least 6-inches shorter than him showed they were good friends. The joy of two friends sharing something special was easy to see. Sometimes we forget college athletes are students too and their circle of buddies extends beyond the athletic department.) It's always a big deal for WCC schools, winning against Gonzaga. It's as predictable as snow in January. Defeat the Zags, rush the court. Well, the way the conference is this season, it may happen more than usual before we are done. The Zags are good, but they are not overpowering. If the Bulldogs don't bring their "A" game every night, they will have to endure court rushes more often. The WCC is more balanced than I can ever remember it and not only because GU isn't on its usual top-20-in-the-nation level. The bottom end of the WCC is much better than it's been in a long time – maybe ever. The middle is stronger. And the upper echelon, the Bulldogs, the BYUs, the Gaels, they aren't all that much better than the rest. Upsets, if you can call them that, will happen every night. The Pilots played really well last night, Gonzaga didn't. In the past it might not have mattered. This year it does.
• WSU: Pretty quiet on the Cougar front last night but Jacob Thorpe did add a few blog posts, including a look back at the almost upset of Colorado, his quickly outdated Pac-12 power rankings and a morning post with links. ... Howie Stalwick has a story for SportspressNW.com on a looming athletic department budget deficit at WSU. ... A California high schooler will graduate today and head to Pullman next week.
• Gonzaga: Our Jim Meehan joined Gary Bell Jr. on the injury list last night, with Jim sidelined in Post Falls with a bad back. He did put together a blog post with a game summary in it along with the story in the paper. ... Nick Daschel covered the game for the Oregonian, which also had a photo story. ... Even CBSSports.com took notice of the upset. ... Both BYU and Pepperdine were limited by injuries but the Cougars found a way to win at home. ... Pacific has yet to enjoy a WCC win, losing last night 81-72 in overtime at home to USF. ... USD was without its best player but rallied to defeat Loyola-Marymount at home. ... Santa Clara's Jared Brownridge drained a last-second 3-pointer to lift the Broncos past St. Mary's at home, 57-55. ... I was in the Kennel last night to watch the Bulldogs dismantle BYU's women. This might be the best defensive group Kelly Graves has had as a coach at GU. Thomas Clouse has the story of the 68-42 win.
• EWU: There are wins you are happy to have and there are wins you must have. Eastern's over Montana last night in Cheney was both. The Eagles are always happy to defeat UM but, with a six-game losing streak, they really needed a victory, no matter the opponent. Jim Allen was at Reese Court and has this game story from the 69-62 Big Sky Conference victory by the undermanned Eagles. So was Colin Mulvany and he has a picture story. ... The Missoulian has a bit different take on the game. ... Montana State is still undefeated in Big Sky play after a 79-76 road victory over Portland State. ... Northern Colorado is still undefeated as well as UNC rolled over Weber State at home. ... In football news, a couple Eagles took home more awards yesterday.
• Shock: The AFL took over the San Antonio franchise yesterday, saying it hopes to keep the franchise in the Texas city.
• Preps: Speaking of change, the Greater Spokane League will not be your dad's GSL next year in football. Nor your big brothers. The principals voted yesterday to split the league in two, with 4A and 3A leagues playing limited crossovers that will not count toward league won-loss records. Greg Lee has all the particulars in this story. ,,, Central Valley raced past Mead in wrestling last night. Mike Vlahovich has the story. ... We can also pass along a basketball roundup.
• Seahawks: One more day. That's all that's left until the Hawks begin their Super Bowl run (hopefully). And they'll do it with Percy Harvin (pictured) as one of their receivers and, quite possibly, their kick returner. Harvin said yesterday he can't wait to get on the New Jersey-bound bus (site of this year's Super Bowl) with his teammates. ... One place Harvin isn't is the injury list. That's new. ... Walter Jones moved on in the Hall of Fame balloting yesterday. The former All-Pro tackle also said he believes the 2005 team was better than this year's Hawks. What a surprise. ... The Hawks are still motivated by last year's playoff defeat. But that came on the road, not in CenturyLink. ... New Orleans is one of the best franchises in the NFL these days with great players. But it wasn't always that way. ... Marshawn Lynch is speaking to the media and avoiding an NFL fine. But he's not saying more than he has to. ... The Hawks aren't loved by everyone, especially those folks outside of Seattle. But there is one player in their locker room that everyone respects. And some no one knows. ... Which Hawk deserves the defensive player of the year award? ... The Los Angeles Times has a nice story on linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr.
• The last day of the work week finds me on the radio again, on the Patchin, Lukens and Osso show. If you want to listen between 3 and 6 p.m., you can here. Until then ...